Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My Experience with Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism, a medical term that was unfamiliar to me until recently.  When I went for my yearly physical check up at my OB/GYN office, I would request her to get me some blood tests done, such as cholesterol and glucose.  I asked her whether there was any other test that she could do for me and she suggested a thyroid (TSH) test, which I gladly accepted.  The result of my first thyroid test was on the high end of normal based on the chart but since I looked fine and my cholesterol and glucose tests came out normal, my OB said I probably shouldn't be worried about it and just go back for a follow up test in 3 months.   Since she phased it like that I didn't do much to change.  Then, about 2 months down, I started to gain weight, even though I had been killing myself at the gym.  So, I started to do a little more research on hypothyroidism (under active thyroid) and started to take my BBT (basal body temperature) every morning upon waking up.  The normal BBT should read 97.5'F and above.  If you were measured consistently below 97.5'F, from 2nd day of your menstrual cycle up to 5 days later.  You might be suffered from hypothyroidism (low metabolism).  My BBT temp. were consistently lower and in addition to gaining weight, I started to feel sore joints on my hands and legs (I thought it might be due to my stair master and track mile exercises that I did in the gym).  My hands would feel cold to the touch even though my daughter's hands were warm to the touch. I started to think I might have hypothyroidism!!!  Even though I didn't have most of the other beginning symptoms.

My Ob/Gyn office called me for the follow up blood test 3 months later and I went.  The blood test was much higher than my previous one (much higher than the normal range) and she referred me to see my family doctor.  I started to get serious about this and did a lot of reading on the web.  I came to a conclusion that my diet was messing up my thyroid!  First let me explain what is thyroid.  Thyroid is a small butterfly shape gland (under Adam's apple) in your throat that makes hormones called thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) that your body needs.  These hormones help control the function of almost all of your body's cells, tissues, organs such as heart, brain, and skin.  The thyroid stores iodine from food and uses it to create T4 and T3.  Not enough T4 made will signal your pituitary gland to release more Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Therefore, high TSH equal to low T3 and T4 which means under active thyroid or hypothyroidism.  Under active thyroid also means low metabolism.  To learn more about hypothyroidism, symptoms and causes of hypothyroidism, read here and here.  Some of the common symptoms are unexplained weight gain, swollen face, hair loss, constipation, irregular period, heavier period, memory loss, joint pain, brittle nails, and fatigue.  After reading a lot of the articles, I came to the conclusion that I had iodine deficiency, even though it was common around the world but very unlikely in the U.S.  Why?  Because I stopped using iodized salt 4-5 years ago when I switched to kosher salt and sea salt because Food Network chefs use these salts in their shows.  Little did I know that my body was screwed by watching the Food Network and all the food magazines out there that listed kosher/sea salt as the salt used instead of iodized salt.  Another reason was I mostly cooked at home and in Asian cooking, we used a lot of soy sauce, oyster sauce, bottle sauces and fish sauce instead of salt.  And all these sauces were not supplemented with iodine.  My table salt was sea salt without iodized and the cooking salt that I used was kosher salt without iodized (I found out that you can actually buy iodized kosher and sea salt now, so please do so if you want to use kosher salt and sea salt, go check your label).  I hardly eat crustacean (shrimp and crab) and egg yolk and I didn't supplement with multivitamins and minerals.  So, where the heck was I going to get enough iodine in my diet? 

So, a day after learning about my high TSH result.  I switched to iodized salt in my cooking, cut down on tofu (used to eat a lot, bad case for my thyroid!), eat more seaweeds, miso and bean sprouts, cutting down on cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cabbage, bok choy to list a few.  But I read that when cooked it will cut down the level of isothiocyanates (disrupt the thyroid) by 2/3, so just don't eat it raw.  Or cook it and then season with iodized salt.  Eat more shiitake mushroom, garlic, onion, leek, banana, apple, olive oil, egg yolk, shrimps, salmon, chicken and also I bought a multivitamins because I realized that my diet didn't really provide me with enough vitamins and minerals that my body needs.  I also need 5-10 minutes of sun exposure a day for the vitamin D that I only get from the sun (I'm a homebody so I don't think I get enough sun and thus Vitamin D).  I am going to add calcium supplement on the list too.

While eating to help my thyroid, I found a family doctor and made an appointment to see her in 10 days.  I felt better on day 8 into this diet, I no longer have sore joints and my BBT temp. was 97.5 or higher and I automatically lost the extra weight that I gained a month ago (even when I quit the gym and exercise not as rigorously, the extra weight just came off, about 3-4 pounds).  So, I actually felt fine when I saw my doctor on day 10 into the diet.  I told her I had switched back to iodized salt.  She didn't even know kosher salt is not iodized.  Anyway, she checked my thyroid gland, listened to my heart and lung and all were normal.  I asked her to give me another TSH test along with T4 and T3 just to see if my diet works.  Two days later I got the result and it was a normal TSH, T4 and T3.  Hence, I was so glad that my Ob/Gyn recommended me to test for thyroid, or else I wouldn't have known that I was iodine insufficient before.

In my opinion, if you are over 35 and female, just request a thyroid test when you go see your doctor, just to be on the safe side (even though the recommended age is 50 and up).  Since beginning symptoms can be really mild and it can be associated with anything.  And as many as 13 millions people have it and most of them don't even know it.  Or they just associated this symptom as getting old and thus lower metabolism.  But bear in mind that under active thyroid equals to lower metabolism. While left untreated, it can be really severe as it affects your heart, brain and overall body.  Furthermore, it can be easily treated if found early either naturally (with iodine supplement) or with hormone pill.

Iodine is an essential nutrient that your body needs so make sure that your diet consists of it (check your kosher, rock salt and sea salt to see if it is iodized, most without will have a warming on it.  Now you know the importance of this nutrient, buy one with it.  Best to get unrefined salt with all the minerals and not the table salt). I read that the cases of people suffering from hypothyroidism are on the rise in the U.S., making me think that perhaps those people are like me who without knowing had switched to kosher/sea salt.  Iodized salt was introduced to prevent thyroid-related disease in the first place, and when people switch, it comes back.  Hence, please make sure your kosher and sea salt are iodized (unless you are on low-iodine diet).

Update:  Since I no longer iodine deficient ( I took an iodine blood test to check) and my TSH result is back to normal, I will be alternating iodized salt with the kosher salt that I still have (still half big box left) and continue eating the tofu (or fermented soy) and cruciferous vegetable since these are health beneficial food.  Too much iodine can cause thyroid hormone imbalances in some people, so salt it with unrefined iodized salt and don't overdo it.

Update 1/16/2013:  I am not on iodine salt anymore as I read that table salt is rid of all the natural minerals, bleached white and has filler in it to prevent cakingInstead, now I use natural Mediterranean sea salt and natural Himalayan pink rock salt where both were unprocessed and have many natural minerals and iodine in it.  I also eat sea vegetable (wakame or hijiki) at least twice a week.  Stop buying supermarket bread and starts making my own.  I try to eat as much organic as I can afford.  Eat more greens and fruits.  Say no to trans fat, GMO food, and high fructose corn syrup.  Minimize processed or refined food and junk food.  Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night and exercise 3 times a week.  After the diet switch, I could feel the difference, even my first morning temp. has improved to 97.7-98.2.  Incredible!  [Just sharing my personal experience here]


Belinda @zomppa said...

Wow. Thanks for sharing and for the alert. You know, I realize, I haven't used table salt in a long time either! Will spread the word.

Angel @ Cook.Bake.Love said...

Thanks for sharing. I am glad that ur test result came out normal .

Blessed Homemaker said...

Thanks for sharing. I use pan and sea salt too, and mostly home cooked food. Think I better alternate usage with iodized salt.

sandrine said...

Thanks for posting this helpful information. I am an addict to the Food Network & Cooking Channel shows, and I have switch to kosher salt as well. 6 months ago my hubby was asking me, are you sure we shouldn't get any table salt(iodined salt)? I just brushed it off, kosher salt is fine baby.

I will definitely go get the iodined salt now when I go grocery shopping tonight and switch between both.

daphne said...

wow! what a journey you have been through! I am glad you are better now..and good tips there to look out for! Will it be a lifetime condition that you have to monitor regularly?

Janine said...

I'm glad you're better now and that you managed to diagnose yourself so quickly! Definitely keeping this in mind, thanks!

Nava.K said...

Thanks for the great info and here's my thoughts on it - Knowing well how intake of salt can effect our health, I have cut down salt so much in my cooking until my friends practically can't take any in any of my cooking.

Because I am so used to such low salt intake, I find most food eaten outside to be very high on salt. I too have switched to a higher grading of salt, organic though I pay slightly a bit more but suppose its worth spending on it then on doctor's bills.

tigerfish said...

My palm, fingers, and feet are always cold too! even when my hb's ones are warm and even when the weather has not reach extreme coldness...hmmm....I need to watch out too!

Kay @ Chopstix2Steaknives said...

Glad that things are back to normal for you now. This is a really informative post.

Little Corner of Mine said...

You're welcome Belinda. Yes, spread the word. :)

Thanks Angel. :)

Yes Homemaker, iodine is very important in our body function, don't leave it out.

Sandrine, I can totally understand you. My hubby asked me last year as well and he even mentioned this table salt is iodized and I brushed him off too. I didn't realize the importance of it then. ;)

Daphne, my family doc. seem to close the case on me, her assistant called and said the results are normal and that's it. But I will get it check when I having my lipid and glucose tests again. Or I'm starting to feel the symptoms again.

Thanks Janine.

Nava, please check to see if your organic salt is iodized since you use so little salt to begin with. I paid higher price for kosher and sea salts too and look what it got me. :P I was raised to use salt sparingly as well as my mom has high blood pressure and sometimes my hubby complaint it's not salty enough. But he can always salt it on his own plate.

Tigerfish, do you need to wear jacket when others are fine? Or losing hair? Read through the symptoms and see whether other symptoms apply to you.

Thanks Kay. I still want to get it check every year though just to be sure. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi, a good GP or gyny will always incl thyroid test for normal blood test. It is an essential test especially for women, regardless age. Not everybody can consume iodized salt as it could trigger hyperthyroidism if one of your family members has this problem. Those who live near the coastline usually do not suffer iodine deficiency due to the diet. I am a Malaysian living in Germany and mine is overactive rather than underactive and the popular iodized salt usage over here can only do me harm. Thyroid underactive is not that serious as overactive unless one intends to get pregnant. Hope you recover soon.

Little Corner of Mine said...

Hi Anon, I don't have a family history of thyroid disorder and I live on the mountain away from coastline and iodized salt is recommended for Hypothyroidism only. In your case it would be the averse effect for sure, hope you are taking the medicine and your hyperthyroidism is under control. :)

Mochachocolata Rita said...

Thank you for sharing this post.

I really feel you.

I had hyperthyroidism and had done a surgery after years of unresolved thyroid problems, and after surgery, I had hypothyroidism :S My sister had it too, and SC had thyroid problems too.

Folks, get your thyroid checking done regularly indeed!

Little Corner of Mine said...

Rita, I hope your hypothyroidism is under control. I will sure get it check yearly. It seem so common these days.

Sonia (Nasi Lemak Lover) said...

LCOM, Thank you for sharing this info. Currently i cook with Natural rock salt, and i see the label mentioned-more than 99.9% dissolved Na+ and CI-ions. Is this good to use? Kindly advise.

Little Corner of Mine said...

Sonia, sorry I am not much help here. I read that kosher salt is also called rock salt. Or are you using the natural Himalayan rock salt? Himalayan rock salt has health benefits because it's pure and has the other minerals that our bodies need but it has no iodine in it. Perhaps you try to search for info. on the web. on the brand of rock salt that you are using and see what is Na+ and CI-ions.

Sonia (Nasi Lemak Lover) said...

LCOM, yes, I using the natural Himalayan rock salt. Thanks anyway. I will find out more in the web.

babe_kl said...

This is so enlightening. Thanks for sharing